Top-of-the-range home gets ABB building controls to match

Mentmore Homes is installing intelligent building controls from ABB in its latest prestigious building project in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire. The Georgian-style exterior of the £2.8 million, 5/6 bedroom homes hides a 21st century luxury development, featuring a home cinema, gym and sauna. ABB’s intelligent i-bus European Installation Bus (EIB) products ensure that the lighting and heating functions match up to the rest of this top-specification build.

“The EIB system allows the homeowners to virtually create their own living environment,” says Brian Peck, managing director of Mentmore Homes. “It enables people to change the mood in an instant.”

ABB’s i-bus system works in a fundamentally different way from conventional smart building systems, in which central controls open and close a separate electrical circuit to activate each individual device, such as a light, blind or heating element. This conventional approach relies on hundreds of power cables to effectively distribute commands around the building.

In the i-bus system, a sensor or control device such as a light switch sends a control signal over a twin-core data cable, or bus, to an actuator, which then controls a device locally. This approach yields a true, two-wire system, without the need for hundreds of wires providing separate circuits between a central control point and each light or other device.

System configuration and commissioning is achieved by connecting a PC equipped with specialist EIB software to any point in the system via a serial interface. This provides a uniquely flexible approach, according to Dan Shrimpton of DRS Electrics, the electrical contractor on the Gerrards Cross project.

“There are no other systems that compare with it. It’s far more advanced than anything else I’ve come across,” he says. “Once other systems are set up, it’s really difficult to change them. But with ABB’s i-bus EIB system, it’s easy to reprogram it to perform differently at a later date.”

This is especially useful if the function of a room may change over time. Individual rooms can each be reprogrammed with their own temperature and lighting cycles, optimised to match changing daily usage patterns. Residents can override these settings at any time.

Installation and commissioning is also straightforward, since the EIB approach is a true, two-wire system. “For a contractor, it’s brilliantly simple to install,” says Shrimpton. “This is the eighth house I’ve done and it takes around three days to commission the whole thing.”

The Mentmore project currently uses the ABB system to control heating and lighting, but the same system could also integrate security alarms and functions, as well as piping entertainment signals around the building. “There’s a lot more it can do,” says Peck. “We’re still learning.”

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